Plus Gallery concludes the strongest year in the gallery history with the debut solo exhibition “At Your Best” by the exceptionally talented emerging artist Austin Parkhill. Parkhill’s first solo exhibition with Plus Gallery comes on the heels of his acceptance in the current Western Edition of New American Paintings, one of only three artists from Colorado to gain that honor in 2012. No stranger to above-average accolades so far in his young career, Parkhill has gradually built an outstanding series of paintings that are impressive in scale, technique and coherence. A truly gifted realist painter in the best-sense of the genre, Parkhill seeks to capture snapshot-style poses, or “fleeting moments” as he likes to refer to them. His subjects have generally been of intimate friends, though more recently he’s branched out with participation of public figures such as the singer Justin Ringle of the band Horse Feathers and the notable bodybuilder Phillip Heath. Parkhill’s interpretations of all of his subjects, whether known to the viewer or not, manage to generate honest, persevering statements that engage on multiple levels.
The genre of realism is one that has seemingly been plumbed throughout history, yet still manages to compel contemporary painters and captivate the public at large. What generally sets the better realist painters apart is how they promote a concept that is their own, often through extraordinary measures and depth of technique. Parkhill’s development has so far been one of poise and determination. Upon graduating with his BFA in 2008 from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, he made his first submission to the gallery, one that felt overwhelmingly awkward in it’s technique yet intriguing in the content the young artist was seeking to convey. Most artists never look back in the face of rejection, yet Parkhill managed to fly in the face of that most common convention, returning a year later with an updated collection of works. This second pass showed remarkable progress in a short period of time, his abilities converging with his ideas at a rare level that was enough to put him squarely on the gallery’s radar. Like most artists hitting the field for the first time, Parkhill sought, and found, a number of initial opportunities through local group exhibitions and upstart galleries. His belief in his work and forward-thinking spirit also led him to enter the prestigious Outwin Boochever National Portrait Competition in it’s second incarnation in 2009. One of the most competitive juried art exhibitions in the Nation, the Smithsonian-sponsored event had proven to jump-start more than a few careers, including Plus Gallery’s most revered painter Jenny Morgan. Parkhill was accepted that year, one of only 50 artists from a pool of over 4000 to enter the competition.
Since his leap to the National stage through the Outwin, Parkhill has maintained his pursuit of excellence and meaningful engagement with painting. His ability to render flesh is one of the most compelling aspects to his work, assuming tonal ranges that dramatize the reality of blemishes and defects rather than masking to a state of airbrushed perfection as one more traditionally finds in the genre. His subjects and their off-guard poses seem to mandate a little closer scrutiny, the artist finding glory in their unguarded sincerity. Parkhill dramatically enhances his output through an adherence to scale that is unusually large and striking. His paintings are bold, carefully selected statements that the viewer can feel, delivering an engagement with the subject by revealing the raw character of the individuals without pretense. They certainly take on a life of their own, countless times have visitors to the gallery asked whether they are seeing a photographic reproduction even though the scale is hyper-real. Which is perfect for Parkhill, who confides that “It is my belief that this human quality allows for the viewer to create a relationship with the artwork.”
While Parkhill’s most recent group of paintings for “At Your Best” are outstanding representations of character and finesse, they also carry an additional rare and unusual distinction – they were all painted from the remote location of Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city on the North American Continent. Having moved to Barrow for a companions employment opportunity in 2011, Austin has made great use of the strange and cold location as an idealized environment to hone his craft. The results should prove to be jaw dropping and as inspiring as anything put forth by Plus Gallery this year.
+ New Drawings by Bill Amundson in the upstairs viewing area November 30th, 2012 – January 12, 2013
Opening reception Friday, November 30th from 6-9pm
Plus Gallery 2501 Larimer Street Denver, CO 80205 www.plusgallery.com 303-296-0927
Hours: noon to 5pm, Wednesday through Saturday